It has been in the works since 2013 with multiple changes and delays along the way which left fans worried about the faith of the movie adaptation of IT. Stephen King recently stated that his expectations were exceeded by the movie. So does it meet the high expectations of IT fans?
IT (Chapter One) takes place between 1988 and 1989 during a time when children have started disappearing at a rapid rate, leaving many adults in denial of the truth. When Georgie, the brother of Bill Denbrough disappears, alongside a number of his friends, Bill and his buddies in the “Losers’ Club” band together to investigate who is responsible for the disappearances. Soon as they start examining evidence and the underground infrastructure of the town, a demonic entity, who has the ability to sense their fears and shape-shift into that which they fear, starts taunting them. Most notably, it likes to shape shift into Pennywise, the dancing clown. Their experience with the shape shifting entity also forces them to confront the demons inside their own homes.
Director Andy Muschietti has created a beautifully crafted film which is most notable when it switches between happy, nostalgic, childhood summer adventure to dark and a creepy atmospheric tone. This contrast allows a strong sense of care to develop towards the kids whenever they are in danger. Those not familiar with the book (and the TV series) will be surprised at how much intentional humour IT contains, mostly due to the interaction between the “Losers’ Club”.
Fans of the book will appreciate that each child actor has captured the core of their character completely and they are as engaging as they are lovable. Members of the “Bowers Gang” are equally as engaging, however, for all the wrong reasons. They are relentlessly sadistic towards other children, which might just be one of the most shocking aspects of the story. With that being said, the actors deserve credit for playing such heinous and unlikable characters so well.
Bill Skarsgård had big shoes to fill (pun not intended) with his portrayal of “It”. His version of the clown takes Pennywise to a whole new level of creepy and manages to steal every scene he is in. He has transformed his mannerisms, voice, and looks to the extent that he is no longer recognisable as Skarsgård, just as Pennywise.
There are three particular scenes which will leave you astonished at what Muschietti and Skarsgård have managed to do with Pennywise.The first sequence with Pennywise is a major highlight and the other two scenes will give those with Coulrophobia the shivers.
The criticism I have of IT is that there is not enough Pennywise in the film, we do see this entity take on other shapes such as The Hobo (Javier Botet) and Judith – the horrifying woman from a painting (Tatum Lee) to mock the children, which is entertaining and creatively admirable. However, additional scenes of Pennywise “playing” with his “food” (aka kids) would have added an extra layer to the mystery of “It” and the unsettling tone of the plot.
In order to capture the ‘80s, IT seems to have taken its inspiration from recent supernatural movies/TV shows while still managing to create its own distinctive style that fits with Stephen King’s narrative. IT does have what many would consider scary, but I can’t call it horror, it’s more of an adventure with major supernatural thriller elements.
The big screen adaptation of IT does make some changes to keep the story fresh, but the essence of the book is maintained. The film runs for 135 minutes but the length is unnoticeable because the movie is tremendously enjoyable to watch. Make sure to keep your eye out for some cameos and creepy beings lurking in the background in certain scenes.
IT (Chapter One) is the adaptation the book deserves.
I rate it 8/10.
IT will be in cinemas from the 7th of September. Also take a listen to our interview with Nicholas Hamilton the leader of the Bowers Gang, here.